Recently I was speaking to another practitioner about a young person with a disability, explaining an incident that had happened to the young person and what I felt would help them in the future.
The reply I received was:
Well they’ve got to learn to live in the real world!
Have you ever talked about your child to another person or practitioner and taken that risk to describe their needs as you know them to be only to be met with ‘yes but that’s not the ‘real world’ is it!
Or - You can’t expect people to understand/accommodate/make allowances for that!
Ooh I’m not sure…the other children/adults won’t like it!
It won’t be fair on the others!
These are all things I have heard from other practitioners when working with children with disabilities and I’m sure many of you have heard them too.
Hearing something like that can feel like a real blow when we take a risk and ask for what our child needs.
Of course there have been times when someone does ‘get it’ and they go that extra mile to help. What a difference that makes!
But the reality is often very different!
So why does it have to be so difficult? -
Much of it is down to lack of understanding or an unconscious or subconscious prejudice or assumption – People with disabilities don’t want or won’t enjoy the same opportunities as their non-disabled peers and therefore they won’t be considered in the same way.
Yes we have made progress but there is still a long long way to go! (Thank goodness we have the Equality act in the UK – although not even this is adhered to adequately sadly)
Which of course is complete nonsense!
So what can we do – We keep on keeping on, that’s what!
We take the stance that this isn’t about us, it’s about them and what they need to do differently – and I am not just talking about the really big stuff here such as accessibility and equality but the small things that also make a difference.
Being honest about expectations. Trying to reach a compromise to enable a child with a disability to access a school trip rather than making them feel like a risk assessment.
If you don’t feel you can meet a disabled child’s needs at a birthday party then ask the parents what you need to do to make the party accessible, the smaller stuff is as important as the big stuff.
Think what you can do rather than what you can’t do.
By listening to each other and offering unconditional acceptance and positive regard for what you are being told is a much more effective way forward.
Too often people can tell you why they don’t have to do something rather than looking at what they can do to make a difference.
To say OK what can we do to help this situation, what will make a difference here has the potential to make such a difference to people’s lives.
To understand that whilst it might not be your experience of the ‘real world’ – it is theirs. And that their experience is as valid as yours.